Daily Archives: 22 Apr 2012

Christians of the Holy Land

CBS News has a really important report about the impending demise of Christianity in the ‘Holy Land’.  Of course it’s been a topic of discussion before but no one, especially the Washington toadies of the ‘Christian Zionists’, seems to care.

The exodus from the Holy Land of Palestinian Christians could eventually leave holy cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem without a local Christian population, Bob Simon reports. Why are they leaving? For some, life in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become too difficult.

Christianity may have been born in the Middle East, but Arab Christians have never had it easy there, especially not today. In Iraq and Egypt, scores of churches have been attacked, hundreds murdered. In Syria, revolution seriously threatens Christian communities. The one place where Christians are not suffering from violence is the Holy Land: but Palestinian Christians have been leaving in large numbers for years. So many, the Christian population there is down to less than two percent, and the prospect of holy sites, like Jerusalem and Bethlehem, without local Christians is looming as a real possibility.

This is what the Holy Land looks like today. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Nazareth, where he grew up. Jerusalem, where he died and where Christians believe he was resurrected. Nazareth is inside the state of Israel. Bethlehem is on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Christian section of Jerusalem is also under Israeli control.

Please, go read the report.   Our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ are being forced from their land.  We owe it to them to care.  We owe it to them!  With thanks to Daniel Stoddart on G+ for the tip.

Quote of the Day

America is a country where there are 100 shows to DVR on Sunday night but no one decent to run for office. — Andy Borowitz

The Sins of Academic Publishers

The Guardian reports

The world of university research has long been held to ransom by academic publishers charging exorbitant prices for subscriptions – but that may all be about to end.  As one of the characters in George Bernard Shaw’s play The Doctor’s Dilemma observes: “All professions are conspiracies against the laity.” To update the observation for a contemporary audience, simply replace the term “professions” with “publishers of academic journals” and you’ve got it in one. For, without the knowledge of the general public, a racket of monumental proportions has been milking the taxpayer for decades.  It works like this. If you’re a researcher in any academic discipline, your reputation and career prospects are largely determined by your publications in journals of mind-bending specialisation – like Tetrahedron, a journal specialising in organic chemistry and published by the Dutch company Elsevier.

But (I can hear some say)

Everything that appears in such journals is peer-reviewed – that is to say, vetted by at least two experts in the field. This is the main quality-assurance mechanism used in scientific research, and it’s what sets scholarly publication apart from most other forms of publishing.

Ah, but the problem is that ‘peer review’ still allows just as much rubbish through if it didn’t exist. Worse still, the only people who really profit from the process are the journal publishers.

This [i.e., the entire ‘peer review scam] gives enormous power to outfits like Elsevier that publish key journals. And guess what? They wield that power. An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, for example, costs a university library $20,269 (£12,600). And if you want Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, that’ll set the library back €18,710 (£11,600) a year. Not all journals are this pricey, but the average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is still $3,792 and many journals cost far more. The result is that unconscionable amounts of public money are extracted from our hapless universities in the form of what are, effectively, monopoly rents for a few publishers. Most major British universities are giving between £4m and £6m a year to outfits like Elsevier, and the bill has been rising faster than the rate of inflation over the years.

And you thought JBL was expensive… Ha!

But it’s not just the exorbitant subscriptions that stink; it’s the intrinsic absurdity of what’s involved in the academic publishing racket. Most publishers, after all, have at least to pay for the content they publish. But not Elsevier, Springer et al. Their content is provided free by researchers, most of whose salaries are paid by you and me.

So who benefits from ‘peer reviewed publications’? No one but the publishers (and the people silly enough to buy into the ‘we’ll give you the prestige you crave’ lunacy).

And then the publishers not only assert copyright claims on the content they have acquired for nothing, but charge publicly funded universities monopoly prices to get access to it.

We call that a ripoff.

The most astonishing thing about this is not so much that it goes on, but that people have put up with it for so long. Talk to university librarians about extortionist journal subscriptions and mostly all you will get is a pained shrug. The librarians know it’s a racket, but they feel powerless to act because if they refused to pay the monopoly rents then their academics – who, after all, are under the cosh of publish-or-perish mandates – would react furiously (and vituperatively).

Most importantly of all-

Which is why the recent initiative by a Cambridge academic, Tim Gowers, is so interesting and important. Professor Gowers is a recipient of the Fields medal, which is the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel prize, so they don’t come more eminent than him. In a memorable blogpost, Gowers announced that henceforth he would not be submitting articles to Elsevier’s journals and that he would also be refusing to peer-review articles for them. His post struck a nerve, attracting thousands of readers and commenters and stimulating one of them to set up a campaigning website, The Cost of Knowledge, which enables academics to register their objections to Elsevier. To date, more than 9,000 have done so.

It’s a shame so many biblical scholars don’t have the moral courage to stand up to greed. At least some of the sciency people do.

Once Again, She Is Not, and Never Has Been, A Man

Thomas Beatie, who made headlines in 2008 as the only legally recognized man known to have given birth, has separated from his wife of nine years, according to People magazine.  Beatie, who has had three children with wife Nancy, announced the split during a taping of the CBS syndicated show “The Doctors.”

‘Legally recognized’ perhaps but that doesn’t mean anything.  OJ Simpson was legally freed after he slaughtered his ex wife and another person and the law, as it presently exists in America, is overseen by many judges as corrupt as any third world Junta.

Despite his legal male status, Beatie left his female reproductive organs in place, and had never undergone “bottom” surgery, known as phalloplasty, to create an artificial penis — until now.  Beatie made world-wide headlines in 2007 when pictures of him pregnant with a beard went public, before he officially announced in April 2008 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and in an interview with People that he was expecting a child while legally living as a man.  “If Nancy could get pregnant, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Beatie told People at the time. “Who hires a surrogate if they are perfectly capable of carrying their own child?”

Alas, how easily we find a way to rationalize even the most distorted and distorting behaviors.  We applaud the unnatural at the same time as we cry out that nature be valued, nurtured, and preserved.

10 More Years Worth of American Tax Dollars Will Be Flushed Down the Toilet Called Afghanistan

The US and Afghanistan have at last agreed on the broad contours of a strategic partnership agreement outlining their relationship after US troops leave in 2014. In it, the US pledges to continue providing support for the Afghan government for another ten years, the New York Times reports. The exact level of financial aid isn’t specified, since Congress must approve that, but the figure being bandied about is $2.7 billion a year, including contributions from other NATO countries.

Thanks for the quagmire, Washington.  Perhaps since you’re the people who want to do it, you should pay for it out of your own pockets.

They Still Speak the Language of Jesus: Aramaic

An interesting report here:

Far from the sounds of gunfire and civil conflict that embroil Syria lurks an oasis of faith and miracles in this tiny village perched on the rugged mountains. It’s one of the last places on earth where the Aramaic language Jesus Christ spoke still lives on the tongue of its inhabitants.

Barely a 45-minute drive (around 50 km) from Syrian capital Damascus, that is in the crosshairs of frenetic global diplomacy, Malula, which in Aramaic means “entrance,” transports you to a self-enclosed world of belief, miracles and divine mysteries.

“Welcome to the place where the language in which Jesus Christ spoke is still alive,” Sister Georgette, clad in black robes, told this visiting IANS correspondent, ushering us into the Convent of St. Serge, a 4,000-year-old monastery that sits atop a rock cliff 5,000 feet above sea level.

Inside the elegantly restored Byzantine interiors are icons of Christ, his face ennobled by suffering and redemptive suffering for mankind, and the Virgin Mary. In front of the altar, she recites “The Lord’s Prayer” in Aramaic.

Malula is among three neighbouring villages where Aramaic is still spoken by around 18,000 inhabitants. The other two places which boast of a living linguistic connection with Christ are Bakhaa and Jabadeen.

Malula is a microcosm of this multi-religious mosaic of a country embroiled in international headlines for being the new epicenter of Arab Spring-like protests against the long-standing regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Walking around amid proud believers and the keeper of an ancient legacy amid exhilarating mountain air, one would not know that barely a few kilometres away in Homs, the government forces are battling out protesters in a fierce battle for power.

Give it all a gander.  Thanks to Chris Rollston for mentioning it.

America is So Fixated on Sex…

Four year old girls are being asked to pledge themselves to virginity till marriage…  4 year olds…  There’s perversity afoot.  And a new film set to hit theaters June 7 tells all about it-

Für den Film «Virgin Tales», der heute in Nyon am Festival Visions du Réel erstmals gezeigt wird, begleitete die Filmemacherin Mirjam von Arx zwei Jahre lang die Familie Wilson aus Colorado. Vater Randy Wilson ist Begründer der «Purity Balls», an denen Mädchen ab vier Jahren um ein Kreuz tanzen und geloben, keusch in die Ehe zu gehen. Die Wilsons gehören den evangelikalen Christen an, die in den USA bereits 20 Prozent der Bevölkerung ausmachen und mit ihrem ultrakonservativen Gedankengut auf dem Vormarsch sind.

Der Film beginnt damit, dass die Wilson-Kinder in einer Reihe vor ihrem Vater knien, um von ihm gesegnet zu werden, womit der Geist, der in dieser Familie herrscht, perfekt illustriert wird. Der Vater ist das Oberhaupt, die Töchter absolvieren keine Ausbildung, weil sie Hausfrau und Mutter werden wollen, und sie beten, möglichst bald einen Mann zu finden, der so untadelig ist wie ihr Vater.

Mirjam von Arx führt die Wilsons nicht vor, sondern porträtiert sie unvoreingenommen und respektvoll-zurückhaltend – wenngleich das Phänomen Enthaltsamkeit angesichts seiner zentralen Rolle im Film etwas genauer hätte beleuchtet werden dürfen. (bwe)

Virgin Tales, von Mirjam von Arx, 87 Minuten,  im Kino ab 7. Juni.

Chastity, sure. Virginity pledges for tiny kids?  Madness.  There’s a time for parents to discuss sex with their children; but the age of 4 isn’t it.    [HT Giorgio Girardet on FB].

As A Former Resident of Arizona, I’m Ashamed of Maricopa County

It is just impossible to understand how the people of that County could continue to support their Sheriff.

cropped from File:Maricopa County Sheriff Joe ...

Evil

An audio recording has surfaced of an Arizona sheriff playing his refusal to cooperate in a racial profiling investigation for laughs at a fundraiser for an anti-illegal immigration group in Texas. He ridicules politicians who sought the probe and displayed contempt toward federal authorities who were – and are still – investigating him on two fronts.  The dismissive comments in 2009 by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio came as the U.S. Justice Department had already launched a civil rights probe of his trademark immigration patrols and the FBI already was examining abuse-of-power allegations for the sheriff’s investigations of political foes.

He should not be in office, he should be in jail.  One day, no doubt, he will be.  He is a loathsome creature.  Equally loathsome are the racists who ensconce him in office every time he’s elected.

Craig Evans on the ‘So-Called Jesus Discovery’

Evans opines

As expected, the so-called Jesus Discovery is making headlines around the world. The claims are amazing; the leaps in logic are breath-taking; and most archaeologists are utterly unconvinced.

And

ABC News assured viewers that the Patio Tomb “will be debated for the next 2,000 years.” I shall be quite surprised if anyone is talking about it in two years.

Actually, no one would be talking about it now if its purveyors weren’t constantly issuing ‘press releases’. But in fact in two years or less this will matter as much as anything else Jacobovici and Tabor have done together: none at all.  After all, didn’t they make a film a year or two ago?  I don’t even remember what it was supposed to be about.

Pay a Visit to Old Jerusalem

Via Google’s ‘Street View’.  It takes you there quite nicely.

Alan Hart Isn’t a Fan of Netanyahu

A former correspondent with the BBC, known for his criticism of Israel, has compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian man currently on trial for killing 77 people in a bomb and shooting spree last July. Alan Hart, a longtime sharp critic of Zionism and of the State of Israel, said both men share the “the mania of victimhood.”

“The main thing they have in common stems from the fact that they both live in fantasy worlds of their own creation and talk a lot of extreme rightwing nonsense,” he wrote last week in an article entitled “What do Breivik and Netanyahu have in common?” in which he compares the mass murderer with the Israeli prime minister.

“The nonsense Anders Breivik speaks is driven in general by his fears about the consequences for Norway of immigration and multiculturalism and, in particular, by his vision of an Islamic takeover. “The nonsense Netanyahu speaks is driven by his perception of Israel in danger of annihilation,” Hart wrote. But what both men do not have in common, Hart stressed, is that Netanyahu “denies Zionism’s crimes,” whereas Breivik “admitted, or even boasted” his crimes.

The essay continues

The writer then referred to a prominent comment made by the Israeli premier in 2006 when he addressed a gathering of Jewish American organizations as the chairman of Likud and said: “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.” “So what Breivik and Netanyahu have in common is, it seems to me, the mania of victimhood,” Hart said.

Perhaps ‘victimhood’ should be replaced by ‘paranoia’.  Both, it’s fair to say, do seem to be driven by the mania of paranoia.

[I bet this Hart fellow has been called some pretty juicy names for his views.  Yet how is it possible, in this matter, to deny the comparison?].

Earth Day…

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…